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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

In Praise of Alicia Mattson

As PlatCom Chair, Alicia was scrupulous about following the rules. At our Vegas meeting we had a massive subcommittee report to work through, but she repeatedly pointed out to those of us in the majority that in a committee we cannot "call the question" and thus limit the right of a lone dissenter to debate for as long as he or she wants. Even on seemingly dilatory replacement amendments that barely got seconded and sometimes didn't even end up getting the seconder's vote, she followed the rule allowing unlimited discussion and would then ask before each vote if there is further debate. On the question of seating alternates, her hands were completely tied by the rules. Chuck Moulton and I both initially disagreed with her interpretation, but changed our minds when we were shown the relevant rules. She's been subject to the most vicious and degrading personal insults ("hillbilly", "married to an uncle cousin", and comments about her appearance that I won't even repeat), but she's never even dignified such comments with a response. She had to manage the podium for the most momentous all-day Platform debate in LP history, and did so with a level of grace and aplomb that I didn't think she had in her. I had never heard of her before the 2008 PlatCom cycle, but her star turn in the Platform debate nearly vaulted her onto the LNC -- and as the runner-up with a possible vacancy looming, still might. The vicious substance-free attacks on Alicia are simply a measure of the inability of her detractors to make a case against the merits of her actions.

Update: at the December LNC meeting in San Diego, David Nolan charged that Mattson expelled alternates from a PlatCom meeting and also refused to let them speak. Both charges are completely false. At the February meeting of the 2008 PlatCom in Las Vegas, alternates (and indeed any LP member) were always allowed in the room. There was never any objection when an alternate asked to speak, but the alternates showed little interest in doing so after the committee upheld the Chair's ruling that the rules do not allow alternates to substitute for absences. Both Chuck Moulton and I had initially disagreed with that interpretation of the LP rules on convention committees, but changed our minds after reading the rules that guided Mattson's interpretation. The two alternates in Vegas were both prominent in the Outright Libertarians, and right before our consideration of gay rights language Mattson called a recess that allowed me to track the two alternates down and invite them back to the room to give us their input. Both of their recommendations were adopted.

Some people have also recently repeated the canard that Alicia's platform survey was biased. I have documented how the survey questions straightforwardly tested both the radical platform vision and the original reformer platform vision and discredited them both. The platform voting by the delegates in Denver confirmed -- and of course did not magically create -- the implications that were evident in the survey results.

Mendacious accusations against Alicia are nothing new. Here are some that were already documented in Denver:


Fiction: PlatCom's moderates tried to “block” dissemination of minority reports.
Fact:
When Secretary Brian Holtz was first told (May 15) that four members considered Rob Power's draft ready to distribute, he asked Power for a cover letter and said he was willing to use his personal email account to help Power email it out (just as the Chair had to do for the Committee's report). When Power instead posted his “open letter” the next day accusing Mattson of obstruction, the Secretary emailed Power's material to the delegate list only 2 hours later. Power falsely claimed he was delayed 9 days, which even one of his fellow minority members called “clearly an exaggeration”. Power's draft was still changing as late as May 11, and still had multiple grammar errors as of May 15. Power's claim that “we have been trying to get this report out via official channels for weeks now” was simply false.

Fiction: Alternates were not told the rules before traveling to Vegas.
Fact:
On Oct 2, four months before the Vegas meeting, the Chair quoted to PlatCom the rule that convention committee alternates are seated for “vacancies”, and not for absences as LNC's own special rules provide.

Fiction: Two alternates were unfairly kept from voting in Vegas.
Fact:
Bylaw 1.7.4 says “Ranked alternates may be named by the appointing bodies to fill any vacancies in the Convention Committees.” All four parliamentarians who have looked at this agreed, even LP Vice Chair Chuck Moulton: “[The PlatCom] Chair's reading was correct in my opinion. And I researched Robert's and the Bylaws for several days hoping she was wrong.”

It made no difference in the voting, even without the votes of the two absent Reform Caucus members. No member voted against deleting all 15 planks from the 2006 Platform. Only 6 of 30 plank recommendations attracted more than one nay for adoption, and only 3 of them more than two. PlatCom worked for 21 hours over 2 days, and spent much time debating hopeless proposals extracted from a rejected radical draft, proposals that often ended up being defeated N-2 or even N-1. The rules did not allow limiting debate, and were followed to the letter.

Fiction: PlatCom ignored the Outright Libertarians.
Fact:
The way that Chair Rob Power of the Outright Libertarians initially engaged the PlatCom's moderates was to publicly post on Oct 3: “The Reform Caucus hasn't (yet) called for changing the platform to endorse anti-gay laws (I suspect they're saving that for 2010 or 2012).” However, the subcommittee drafting what became the PlatCom proposal took verbatim the Principles section of the Outright-endorsed Sexuality and Gender plank that the Portland convention had created. Acting on the advice of Power (then a PlatCom alternate), the subcommittee bent its own guideline against novel language and proposed to call out in its Personal Relationships plank the issues of marriage, adoption, immigration, and military service. The subcommittee Chair twice forwarded the draft language to the Outright forum, and received only one response (positive).

Power predicted on the Outright forum that the new phrase would be among many novel-language amendments at the end of the PlatCom report, saying “these guys know full well that there won't be time for all of these proposed novel language amendments”. In fact it was only one of two such amendments adopted in Vegas and was adopted inline with the plank itself. When the plank came up for discussion, the subcommittee Chair left the room to seek out Power and another Outright leader, and invited them to help improve the plank. He moved adoption of both of their recommendations (“gender identity” and “current laws”).

Ten weeks after Vegas, censorship on the Outright forum still ensured that Power's false prediction was never corrected, and the Vegas outcome hadn't been reported to the Outright membership. Instead, an Outright leader wrote that "the people behind the platform nuttery are getting more deranged by the day." Power himself had publicly written two weeks before the Vegas meeting: “As the desperation of the lies being told by LNC members and their puppets on the Platform Committee increases, it’s becoming more and more obvious to the delegates that the right thing to do is to reject the Platform Committee’s majority report in Denver.”

Even after having taken his advice on gay rights language, PlatCom was warned by Power that gay-rights groups like eQualityGiving would punish the platform in their scorecard. So the PlatCom Secretary sent the plank to eQualityGiving, and it turns out they read it as earning the score Power said an ideal plank ought to earn.

1 comment:

virtualgalt said...

I was there and certainly impressed with her patience and skill. She seems the kind of person you'd like to have in a position like the LNC.